The best regular season in school history — which included a coveted Cahokia Conference championship — ended for the Wesclin Warrior first-round playoff loss to Pleasant Plains.
A year later, coach Ric Johns has moved on to lead the Jersey Community program and former Mater Dei and Centralia coach Ray Kauling takes over program poised for a regular season repeat and, maybe, a deeper playoff run.
Kauling, also the Wesclin athletic director, is familiar with the Warriors talent.
“We’ve had a good camp thus far. The kids attitude has been great,’’ Kauling said. “It’s so much different than it was 20 years ago with the things you can do in the summer. The kids conditioning is way ahead of what it used to be when camp begins ... Or at least it should be.’’
The Warriors, who open the season Friday at Dupo, lost quarterback Josh DeMage and several others to graduation. But among those returning are senior running back Gavin Bilbruck and four of starters on an offensive line which was among the best in any class in 2017.
Bilbruck (6-1, 190) ran for 1,206 yards and 15 touchdowns a year ago. Those numbers should be even better this fall given the added experience of a huge offensive front which includes Jacob Brown (6-2, 305) Christian Bair (6-2, 260), Grant Heier (6-4, 245) and Kolden Rapien (6-5, 290)
“Brown is a three-year all-conference lineman and I think Rapien and Bair were all-conference as well last year. It’s nice to have those kids back. They’ve got a little bit of an attitude as well and that’s good to see,’’ Kauling said. “ They’re big and strong. We just have to stay healthy and hopefully good things will happen for us.’’
Senior Brandt Goings takes over for DeMage at quarterback and is a solid athlete according to Kauling.
“Brandt is a kid who played quarterback growing up.,’’ Kauling said. “Like Josh (DeMage) he has good understanding of the game and what we need him to do.’’